What is home? My parents immigrated to the States from South Korea, I was born and raised in California, I go to university in Rhode Island, and I am now studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I think some of the “go-to” answers of what a home might be are a physical address or a place to call your own; wherever loved ones are; an inner security or sense of belonging; or maybe home is simply wherever you spend most of your days.
Last spring break I went on a missions trip to Atlanta with a team from my campus ministry group to serve the city and connect with fellow Christians there. One of the things that we did was visit a homeless shelter and have a chat with some of the people who were seeking refuge there. I had never realized before that a problem accompanying homelessness was not having a personal mailbox. Even the most broken down houses and apartments have mailboxes, so lacking property—and thus an address—is somewhat dehumanizing. It’s hard for people to reach you. There is a disconnection.
Thankfully, I’m in one of the dorms here at Trinity College Dublin and I do have an address. Mail is scarce but I’m grateful for whatever letters come my way (even if they are from the bank). I really like Dublin: the people are magnanimously friendly, the numerous food markets keep my belly full, and the architecture exhales history. But I’m having trouble finding my sense of belonging here. I get spoiled at Brown—the safest of all spaces with friends who will love me despite my ugly laughter and weird combo dishes at the Ratty. However, outside of Brown and outside of multi-ethnic Los Angeles, I am forever a foreigner in the eyes of Americans and Irishmen alike. It’s weird because I’m sort of stuck in a no man’s land. I’m neither fully Western nor Eastern, attached to but not able to fully identify with both. I don’t know if I’m ever really home.
It feels like eggshells. Always walking on eggshells. If I make a wrong move, the ground beneath me cracks and resounds uncomfortably, and people’s heads turn as they hear the echo of a foreigner’s shame. The Sunday school teachers were right when they said that Christians will never truly be at home on earth. We can make ourselves comfortable in the meantime with significant others, trophies and achievements, or Netflix (my personal favorite). But no matter how many Upworthy articles we read, it’s not hard to see that the world is broken. And so are we. Humans are capricious creatures, largely insensitive to the pride that blinds us. Strict reliance on knowledge and self-sufficiency is dangerous as memories betray us, logic escapes us, and morality comes to us in a culturally determined package. The qualities we value as highly sensible and upright have been passed down to us through cracked human vessels—parents, mentors, schools, governments, Disney films (yes, even Frozen), and so on.
Luke 9:58 says, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (ESV). At first it may seem cruel for Jesus to ask us to live a whole life and then not get overly attached to anything. Death and loss are constant reminders of the transient properties of life, protecting us from complacency—a terrible trap like a warm bed that’s just too perfect to leave but is ultimately debilitating. As the beloved author C.S. Lewis put it:
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
It took a lot of dead ends for me to begin to grasp the profundity and truth behind that statement. I know that we are meant to enjoy ourselves in this life, but there is a line between enjoyment and making these things idols in the homes of our hearts. I still struggle with that distinction, especially as a college student “trying to find myself.”
I truly appreciate the family I have in this life, both in California and on good ol’ College Hill, and the best part about going abroad (at least for me) is coming back to the ones I know and love. The funny thing is that it took a semester abroad to understand my true state as a vagabond. More than anything, this news is heartening; I don’t have to settle for false gods that will ultimately disappoint me and rob me of peace. And every single day Jesus is there with open arms, inviting the prodigal daughter with the dirty, tear-stained face. In my deepest place I know the only one that deserves my unconditional devotion is Jesus. Because when we fail, when we have lost all hope, when the world rejects us and we can’t find a place to rest our heads, when we’re tired of walking on eggshells, He will carry us home.
Brown University, CS Lewis, death, home, homelessness, hope, immigration